NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission prepares for landing on an asteroid

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission prepares for touchdown on an asteroid

The selection will take place on Oct 20, earning it NASA’s initial spacecraft to acquire a sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth.

The OSIRIS-REx will depart Bennu in 2021 and return to Earth in September 2023 carrying about 30 sugar packets worthy of of content from the asteroid.

Since arriving in December 2018, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission has been orbiting the asteroid and mapping its surface area.

Bennu is 179 million miles from Earth, but it’s thought of a around-Earth asteroid. The asteroid could go near to Earth, closer than the moon, in 2135, with even closer strategies attainable in 2175 and 2195. A immediate strike is not likely, but the knowledge collected throughout this mission can support figure out the most effective strategies to deflect near-Earth asteroids.

The samples from Bennu could assistance experts recognize not only more about asteroids that could impression Earth but also about how planets fashioned and lifetime commenced.

Area tag

On Tuesday, the spacecraft labored through its TAG, or Contact-and-Go sequence, which is how it will gather samples from the asteroid.

OSIRIS-REx practiced its sampling sequence about 131 toes above the picked site on Bennu, termed Nightingale. The website is inside of a crater on the asteroid’s northern hemisphere. Then, OSIRIS-REx backed away from the web page.

This rehearsal took about 4 hours to full as it worked as a result of a few of the four maneuvers that will be required to gather a sample.

Basically, the spacecraft had to perform burns, or fire its thrusters, to get closer to the floor of the asteroid’s surface — leaving its orbit .6 miles absent from the asteroid.

NASA's plan to collect the first sample from an asteroid finds its target

Then, it executed a “Checkpoint” burn up at 410 feet absent. During this maneuver, OSIRIS-Rex can autonomously check its posture and velocity to see if it desires to make any adjustments ahead of it moves nearer to the asteroid.

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OSIRIS-REx then accomplished its “Matchpoint” melt away, wherever the spacecraft matches the asteroid’s rotation so it can fly higher than the sample web page.

A NASA mission's delicate dance to collect samples from a rugged asteroid

This place the spacecraft closer than it has ever been to the asteroid’s floor, at 131 toes absent. During this shut come upon, OSIRIS-REx unfolded its Contact-and-Go-Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or sampling arm to exam it in the configuration it will use in October.

Devices on the spacecraft also took much more observations for science and navigation uses, which is also element of the sample collection approach. The new superior-resolution photographs these devices obtained will help the spacecraft’s Natural Element Monitoring steering method target the little sample assortment web site.

This assistance system makes it possible for OSIRIS-REx to use its on-board hazard map and stay away from spots that could trigger harm to the spacecraft. The planned trajectory to access and sample the Nightingale web site reveals that a protected touchdown will be possible in October.

This image was captured on August 11 when OSIRIS-REx rehearsed above the asteroid.

Specified the length of the spacecraft from Earth, it requires about 16 minutes for a signal sent from Earth to arrive at OSIRIS-REx. So instructions will be sent ahead of time to the spacecraft, as effectively as a command to commence this sequence, in Oct. The staff tested this capacity for the duration of the rehearsal.

The mission workforce also utilised this rehearsal as an option to make positive the spacecraft’s devices were being running commonly.

2 different asteroids visited by spacecraft may have once been part of 1 larger asteroid

“Lots of vital techniques were being exercised for the duration of this rehearsal — from communications, spacecraft thrusters, and most importantly, the onboard Purely natural Function Tracking advice technique and hazard map,” claimed OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta, a professor of planetary science and cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona, in a assertion.

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“Now that we have accomplished this milestone, we are self-confident in finalizing the procedures for the TAG function. This rehearsal verified that the team and all of the spacecraft’s methods are completely ready to acquire a sample in October.”

When a great deal of the workforce worked remotely, a limited quantity of team users had been on-site at Lockheed Martin’s Area facility, NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Center and the University of Arizona and practising health and fitness and security safety measures amid the ongoing pandemic.

This artist's concept shows the spacecraft's trajectory.

In October, the spacecraft will truly access the asteroid’s surface and use its sampling arm to contact down for five seconds. It will launch a pressurized charge of nitrogen to disturb the area of the asteroid and collect samples from that substance. Then, it will again absent and return the samples to Earth on September 24, 2023.

One more mission, Japan’s Hayabusa-2, has collected samples from the asteroid Ryugu — which could have come from the similar dad or mum body as Bennu — and is presently on its way back again to Earth. Samples are anticipated again by December 2020.

What we know so far

Considering that arriving at Bennu in 2018, OSIRIS-REx has revealed intriguing information about the asteroid.

The mission — which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Source Identification, Protection-Regolith Explorer — launched in September 2016.

Bennu is coated in boulders rather than the big areas of good-grain material that experts expected.

NASA mission catches nearby asteroid ejecting material into space

Bennu is the smallest entire body to at any time be orbited by a spacecraft, just a tiny little bit wider than the peak of the Empire State Setting up, in accordance to NASA. Bennu has a condition equivalent to that of a spinning top, and it is really a “rubble pile” asteroid, which is a grouping of rocks held together by gravity relatively than a single object.

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OSIRIS-REx’s devices have confirmed that hydrated minerals, like magnetite, are plentiful and widespread on the asteroid. The asteroid is entire of valuable resources that may perhaps even incorporate clues about how daily life started. Bennu is effectively a leftover from the development of our photo voltaic procedure billions of many years in the past.

Early in the mission, the spacecraft noticed unanticipated plumes of substance ejecting from the asteroid into space.

Bennu almost certainly originated in the primary asteroid belt, owning damaged off of a greater asteroid in the belt involving Mars and Jupiter a few of billion years back. This knocked it as a result of area until finally an orbit shut to Earth locked it in area.

About the author: Raven Weber

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